How China and Pakistan Negotiate

Adeney, Katharine and Boni, Filippo (2021). How China and Pakistan Negotiate. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.



Since being officially launched in April 2015, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been one of the most watched set of projects under the aegis of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Having already injected around $25 billion into Pakistan, the CPEC not only has been dubbed the “flagship project” of the BRI, but it also holds a central role in Beijing’s global ambitions.1 While much has been said about the geopolitical implications of the CPEC, including for both India and the United States, less attention has been devoted to providing in-depth insights into the mechanics of how the BRI is unfolding on the ground in Pakistan. How do China and Pakistan negotiate the terms of CPEC deals? To what extent has Islamabad managed to exert agency in its dealings with Beijing? How does China adapt to the contexts it operates in? By now, the CPEC has been subject to much media, academic, and policy scrutiny, but these questions have not been answered. This paper foregrounds the importance of adopting a relational approach to studying how the BRI unfolds on the ground. This entails looking at how Pakistan and China have negotiated the CPEC’s energy, infrastructure, and industrial cooperation projects. The analysis is based on semi-structured elite interviews conducted by the two authors during three rounds of fieldwork in 2015, 2018, and 2020–2021 triangulated with a host of official reports, statements, and newspaper articles. [math mode missing closing $]

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